This is the best and the worst time to be a baseball fan. It’s pretty bad because the big buzz of the offseason has faded and we are still a couple of months from pitchers and catchers reporting. However, it is the time of year that predictions and prospect rankings start coming out which is just enough to whet your baseball appetite after feasting on holiday goodness.
After looking at Baseball America’s list a few weeks ago, both Fangraphs and MinorLeagueBall have announced their Nationals top prospects list. There isn’t much difference surrounding all of the lists as all of the prospect experts see the same few prospects at the top, and some solid, if unspectacular depth throughout the rest of the system.
John Sickels put the top-three as Anthony Rendon, Brian Goodwin and Lucas Giolito. He penalizes both Rendon and Giolito for their injury concerns and both would have been rated higher if it was based solely on their baseball-playing ability but as we know with prospects – it never is. He even goes as far as insinuating he would have had Giolito at the top of the list if he would have been assured of his recovery from Tommy John surgery.
Over at Fangraphs, Marc Hulet has a slightly different order putting Goodwin above Rendon and Giolito. Also of note is that Hulet did not have left-handed pitcher Matt Purke in his top-15 (Sickels had him at #8.) Purke is another Nationals prospect who dropped due to injury concerns. The Nationals seem content to pick up prospects with upside and some injury history and with their touch when it comes to handling players after a major surgery to date, who can blame them?
Another name to keep an eye on who is high on every prospect list is Matt Skole. He made a name for himself with a very solid Fall season and has the power to play either corner infield spot giving the Nationals some room to maneuver with Rendon and his future position.
Also of note, the Nationals top-10 prospects from last year at Fangraphs was completed before the Gio Gonzalez trade. So from that list, five are no longer considered: Bryce Harper was #1 and has graduated, A.J Cole, Brad Peacock and Derek Norris were #3, 7 and 9 before being traded to Oakland and #4 on the list last year was Alex Meyer who was traded to Minnesota for Denard Span. Any system that loses that many quality players is bound to see a little bit of a drop, but the consensus is that the Nationals do have some very good upside down the road if some of the prospects reach their ceiling or anything close to it but as with any prospects there is some risk involved and the Nationals top prospects all have more risk than some of their counterparts.